By Will Vandervort.
By Will Vandervort
CLEMSON — When Bernard Sullivan dove and fought for a loose ball with a little more than 13 minutes to play, and Clemson up 28 points at the time, it was obvious how serious the Tigers were taking their season-opener versus Presbyterian Monday night at Littlejohn Coliseum.
Clemson won its 28th straight season opener thanks to 15 points and six rebounds from Milton Jennings and 11 points and five rebounds from Devin Booker in a 77-44 victory.
“That’s just our game,” Booker said. “We try to come out and work hard every game and just turn it up on the defensive end. If the offense isn’t coming then we will keep going on defense because the offense will eventually come.”
The offense did come for the Tigers as they shot 53.6 percent from the field, including 39.9 percent from three-point range. Clemson was 7 of 18 from behind the arc.
“It was a good opening performance by our guys,” Clemson head coach Brad Brownell said. “The way we played defensively we have done a good job in guarding and we need to do that to be successful. I thought we showed pretty good patience against the zone.
“Obviously, we saw a lot of that again tonight and we did not turn the ball over. That was really good offensively to have big assists and have low turnovers. I’m pleased with our opening performance but we have a lot of work to do moving forward, though.”
The Tigers (1-0) led by as many as 33 points, thanks in large part to 12-2 run to start the second half. Leading 38-21 at the break Clemson got baskets from Jennings and Booker and then freshman Jordan Roper drained a three-pointer from the right wing for a 50-23 lead.
Roper finished the game with 11 points on 5 of 11 shooting. Fellow freshman Adonis Filer added seven points with two three-pointers.
“They played with a lot of confidence tonight,” Booker said of the Clemson freshmen. “They are all fighting for a spot, so coming off the bench, they know they have to work hard and play with a lot of energy in every game. They are into it.”
Sullivan was also into it. The sophomore, who scored five points and had five boards, threw his body in harm’s way for a loose ball with his team up 55-27, and then found Booker underneath, where the 6-foot-8, 250-pound center went up strong with a basket, while drawing a foul with 13:30 to play.
“That’s the way we have tried to do things since I got here,” Brownell said. “We tell them not to play the scoreboard, but play possessions. Again, we just have to have the mentality that we are going to compete. Guys did a good job with that tonight.”
McDaniels, who was 2-for-3 from behind the arc and scored nine points, later nailed a three-pointer and then grabbed a rebound on a follow that he threw back down with a one-handed jam with 7:53 left. But the slam dunk did not count due to a foul on Booker, but nonetheless, the message was sent – the Tigers were all business.
“It was a great start,” the sophomore said. “I believed we came out, especially early, and played hard defensively. Defensively, we were very disciplined. I think we came out and showed we were the better team.”
McDaniels later got his dunk back with a powerful jam with less than six minutes left for a 72-44 lead.
The Tigers led by as many as 20 points in the first half thanks to a 12-2 run, which Jennings capped by scoring the last five points.
Presbyterian rallied though behind Joshua Clyburn, who finished with a game-high 19 points. Ryan McTavish, who had 11 points, also hit two three-pointers during a mini 10-3 run that cut the Clemson lead to 30-17 with 3:50 to go in the first half. But, Damarcus Harrison dropped in back-to-back buckets and Jennings added a shot with 0.8 seconds left in the half to give Clemson a 38-21 lead at the break.
Clemson’s next game will be at Furman on Friday from Timmons Arena. The game is set to start at 7 p.m. It will be the first time the Tigers have played in Greenville since 1992.